Pebble In Your Shoe

Okay, so this isn’t about your shoes-or is it? You’ll have to decide.

Got to thinking-how often do you check the fit of the saddle? Oh, I know you do when you first get it, but after that? If you’re like most people, the answer-never. Why is that?

Saddles are to horses like a shoe is to us-they encase a sensitive weightbearing portion of their anatomy. They have to move and carry weight while wearing them. So do our feet. If the fit is off-or a pebble gets in there, major pain and everybody gets cranky.

For horses-depending somewhat on breed and individual temperament-you’ll get anything from a stoic, slight unwillingness to work, to snapping at you when the offending saddle is brought out and girthed up (oh, you thought the horse was just being ‘cinchy’? Think again),  to bolting and outright runaways, and sometimes rodeo bucking. If anyone is around who is at all knowledgeable-and, I swear to the heavens above, these people seem to be in woefully short supply, if they check the horse’s back and girth area, the edema, swelling, and tenderness will be readily apparent. Sometimes there can be even be raw open sores.
“But the saddle fit when I got it!”

Uh, huh. Heard that one before.

Lots of things happen. The horse was two then-and then matured. That means the horse grew-in height, width, muscle mass. The saddle didn’t change, but the horse did. Oops.

Or you were only riding one-two days a week at most when you got the saddle. Now you are riding  6-and usually 2-3 hours at a time. Your horse’s build has changed with the work. Things are very different now.

The opposite is also true-if you quit riding, the horse also changes shape-gets rounder and flabbier. They’re no different from us.

They also change with age. That back can start to sway a bit. Maybe you need to correct for bridging. Or there’s been an injury and there’s a crookedness now that didn’t used to be there. Perhaps your saddle got warped from sitting in a hot car trunk and you didn’t realize it and that’s causing problems. Have you checked?

And while we’re here-do NOT use your hand to check fit. When was the last time you rode with your hand under the saddle? I don’t believe I ever have. How should you check it? Nifty tool sitting in your kitchen called a spatula. The thin metal ones are best. They should slide easily between the horse and saddle. Too tight-problem. Too easy-problem. Nice consistent tension-just right.

Now check that girth for being really clean and go riding.